Sydney Story Factory takes teens from playground to published authors

Young talent time: First time published students (L to R) Finbar Clayton, Phoebe Lu, Briana Terman, Bindi Mutiara; (Back) Grace Chen, Lisa Choi, Sebastian Wooldridge and Luka Bakota. Photo: Steven SiewertA published book for any first-time author is a bright and shiny thing.
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To the graduates of the inaugural year-long novella workshop of the Sydney Story Factory, the not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people, it is playground bragging rights and career possibility all rolled into one.

Since February, nine students have met weekly to develop original story ideas and seven of them – the youngest 12 and the oldest 16 – have become published authors with their finished novellas printed for sale.

Looking back on the year of Thursdays, the Story Factory’s storyteller-in-chief, Richard Short, feels much like an embarrassingly proud uncle. “It just makes me wildly, wildly happy to celebrate these works,” he said at the launch.

“I think we all know that it’s got more to do with hard work than miracles. What we saw all do was struggle through the early attempts to come up with the ideas rich enough to develop and to get through to the final phase of editing that was so difficult, heart-rending but necessary to create a good piece of writing.”

The goal was to extend the young writers, many of whom had been coming to the Story Factory since it opened four years ago.

At the finish line the novellas are of varying lengths and genres, ranging from a fast-paced, military adventure to a witch’s magical quest in ancient Egypt and gritty tales of teens losing their way.

Students had been selected less for their sophisticated writing skills than because they would stick with the challenge.

Editorial teams from Penguin Random House and Allen & Unwin took the manuscripts from drafts to the polished, published copy.

For Year 7 Newtown Performing Arts student Finbar Clayton, 13, writing a novella proved way harder than he thought.

His first idea was to write a story of magical powers and cliched villains but he got bored so switched to a story featuring vampires and ghouls. “I thought it was brilliant and I wrote a page of that until I realised it was terrible and I hated that.”

He finally settled on the idea of a “plain old, run-of-the mill mouse”.

“As I was writing all these other fantastical stories I started realising that I was writing the same stuff I always write, and I had this idea what if I write something I have no experience of, something outside my comfort zone that would keep me engaged to the end.”

The youngest author Phoebe Lu, 12, took her inspiration from a class history lesson on ancient Egypt to write her novella of a witch who brews a potion and finds herself a key ingredient short.

Luka Bakota, a Year 7 student from Dulwich Hill High School of Visual Arts, had the toughest learning curve of the group. He lost 20,000 words of his draft science fiction story when his computer died.

“I lost all of it and I had no back up.” Bakota started again and his darkly humoured portrait of a cussing 15-year-old teen, Danny, carries the only “mature content” warning.

Sebastian Wooldridge was in Year 4 when his mother forced him to attend the Story Factory’s very first workshop.  “I was good at comprehension, my writing was terrible. I used to hate reading, now I love it.” His action packed novella was inspired by a viewing of American Sniper.

The quality of writing is, says volunteer proofreader Alison Lyssa, impressive. “There’s a freedom to the young people’s work – vivid, rich vocabulary, rich imagery.

The Story Factory’s primary aim is to help children from Indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds find their writing voices. Whether these students become full-time writers is beside the point, says Short.

“Some of these kids have gone from being interested in writing, to people who identify themselves as writers. That’s a massive leap as well as a difficult leap. Even novellas are big and imposing things.”

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Banned Pies Lachie Keeffe and Josh Thomas resume training

Lachie Keeffe and Josh Thomas back on the track at Collingwood on Monday. Photo: Eddie Jim Lachie Keeffe finished second in the time trial. Photo: Eddie Jim
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Josh Thomas finished the time trial in the middle of the pack. Photo: Eddie Jim

Lachie Keeffe hasn’t played a game of football for more than two years. But as the suspended key defender resumes training with his Collingwood teammates, he’s looming as a pivotal part of the Magpies’ plans for 2017.

Keeffe and suspended colleague Josh Thomas had their first proper pre-season training session on Monday since the end of 2014, with two months left to run on their two-year suspensions for ingesting the banned drug Clenbuterol.

​Both have been isolated from the club during their suspensions, delisted then picked up again as rookies as Collingwood committed to giving them another chance. Their suspensions don’t end until February 10, which means they can’t participate in any promotional or commercial activities or give any media interviews until then.

But while you won’t be hearing anything from either until then, the Magpies will be pumping as much fitness work and, particularly, game simulation into the pair as possible. And will have their fingers crossed about Keeffe’s progress, in particular.

The selection door is definitely open for Keeffe, as indicated recently when Collingwood upgraded him once again from the rookie to the senior list.

While busting back into the Magpies’ best 22 might be problematic for Thomas, Keeffe, the 204-centimetre backman, looks very likely to fill what threatens to be a hole in the Collingwood structure, namely defensive height. He looks a readymade replacement for the departed Nathan Brown, Jack Frost and Jonathon Marsh.

Ben Reid is the Pies’ only remaining proven key defender, and will be relying heavily on support from the shorter Melbourne recruit Lynden Dunn, along with Jeremy Howe and Tyson Goldsack. Key forward Jesse White is another option to play in defence.

Already, however, Keeffe shapes as the No.1 choice to play on the AFL’s genuine forward beasts. Collingwood, certainly, will be recalling his form during  2014, when he played 18 of his 40 senior games, holding down the key defensive post nearly all season after long-term injuries to Reid and Brown.

Things are going to be a lot tougher for Thomas, who had played 32 games over two seasons in 2013-14 before the suspension.

He will have his work cut out fighting his way back into the senior line-up. Statistics provider Champion Data last week ranked the Magpie midfield as the best in the AFL, with six players – Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom, recruit Daniel Wells, Taylor Adams and Jack Crisp – rated among the AFL’s top 50 mids.

But both Thomas  and Keeffe seemed happy enough on Monday just being back  with the teammates with whom they hadn’t been able to meaningfully interact for two years.

Collingwood had issued a statement confirming the return of Thomas and Keeffe on Sunday evening. “The players will enter a two-month transition period, where they are able to take part in training, coaching, football meetings and receive medical treatment in preparation for their return to professional sport once their sanctions are complete,” the club said.

Both competed in a two-kilometre time trial, Keeffe finishing second, behind rookie ruckman Max Lynch. Travis Varcoe, who missed the Magpies’ first time trial three weeks ago, came in third, while Thomas finished mid-pack.

Keeffe was welcomed over the finish line by a round of applause from his teammates and smiles from coach Nathan Buckley, who made a point of congratulating the 26-year-old, perhaps in recognition not only of that achievement, but his potential importance.

Keeffe, will be far from the best player in Collingwood’s line-up next season. But when it comes to curbing the big, goalkicking forwards from the Magpies’ rivals, he may end up being one of the most critical.

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Cafe making Christmas dreams true

The Gawler Heritage Cafe, in association with the Gawler Lions Club are holding a Christmas wishing tree for people in need around the region.
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Co-owner Noelene Hanson said it all began with her family, as they “love Christmas”.

“We did it as a sort of a promotional thing originally,” she said.

“But cause my sister and I love Christmas, we’re very family oriented, love the whole Christmas themeand we thought we’d help other people out by having theChristmas wishing tree.

“It’s a good excuse to get a new Christmas tree too.”

This is the third year the cafe has held the wishing tree, with the event getting bigger and bigger each year.

“It’s getting bigger every year,” she said.

“Every year we’re getting more presents and even more people are learning about it, and we’re able to help others.”

“I think last year we got around 300, and it’s gradually built up every year.

“The area where the presents are gets quite big.”

Ms Hanson said that it is a rewarding feeling to be putting smiles on faces.

“It’s good, it’s a really good feeling knowing you’ve helped others,” she said.

The Gawler Lions Club do the distributing of the presents on a regular basis from the cafe, distributing them around a variety of charities in the area.

“They’ve got people there that work with organisations locally,” she said.

“They come in and get the presents and distribute them to the local charities.

“The Lions Club have a couple of little helpers as well.”

The wishing tree isn’t based just around kids, with people of all ages and genders looked after.

“Kids, adults, babies, men, women, whoever really,” she said.

“All we ask is that they wrap it and bring it in, put on who’s it for, age, gender.”

“Mum and Dad occasionally like a present too.”

To donate to the Christmas wishing tree at the Gawler Heritage Cafe, simply drop a wrapped present into the shop at anytime, with age and specific gender on it if applicable.

SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER: Gawler Heritage Cafe co-owner Noelene Hanson with the Christmas wishing tree.

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Important progress achieved in busy year

It is hard to believe Christmas is almost upon us – and even harder for me to believe that our new council is already three months into its term.
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Time has flown as I have settled into my new role as Mayor, and it has been an equally busy three months for all of our elected representatives, particularly the many new faces on Council.

Although we have had only a few full Council meetings, we have already begun to tick off some important projects for our City.

Recently, Council adopted the Toronto Contributions Catchment Plan, which sets out how Council will levy developer contributions to fund new and improved recreational facilities and open space in western Lake Macquarie.

At the same meeting, we set in train changes to the city’s Development Control Plan that will allow for the implementation of Council’s widely awarded and acclaimed plan to manage lake-level rise in the flood-prone suburbs of Marks Point and Belmont South.

In October, I signed an MOU on behalf of Council with the Global Smart City and Community Coalition.

This aligns Lake Macquarie with international cities at the cutting edge of urban innovation and will allow us to tap into their ideas as we strive to become a more efficient and liveable city.

Council has also confirmed financial support for a range of community events in the coming year, including Morisset Show and Rodeo, Float Fest, Windale Summer Community Fun Day, Harmony Day and Lakefest.

We adopted a new City Vision and set of Community Values, which will lay the foundation for our new Community Strategic Plan, to be developed in the first half of 2017.

Council will go out to the community in coming months to ask what services and facilities you value, to guide us in the creation of the new plan.

We are also developing a new Arts Heritage and Cultural Plan to help our city places and spaces come alive.

There is much to do, but first, a pause for Christmas.

On that note, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy, safe and relaxed holiday season.

Cr Kay Fraser, Mayor of Lake MacquarieTo find out what’s going on in Lake Macquarie during the holiday period, visit lakemac南京夜网419论坛

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Grinch thieves strike

DEVASTATED: Frankie, 3, Harper, 6 and Allana Kane are devastated thieves have stolen their Christmas presents. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric A young familyis facing a giftless Christmas after their car, with presents hidden inside, was stolen during a ruthless robbery on Monday morning.
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Allana Kane had just finished buying Christmas presents for her daughter Frankie, 3, son Harper, 6, husband Matthew and nieces and nephews.

“I went shoppingand was finished, Ms Kane said.

“The kids were inside the house, so I left the presents in the boot of the car and put a blanket over them.”

The busy mum and full-time primary school teacher had hoped to wrap the presents on Monday night, while her children were sleeping, but heartless thieves ruined her plans.

When Mr Kane went to leave for work at 5.30am he realised the family’s Nissan X-Trail was nowhere to be seen.

Investigating police believe someone a stole the locked vehiclebetween 6pm on Sunday and 5.30am, Monday.

“The car was filled with $1500 of games, electrical items, motorcycle vouchers, clothes, an iPod and Apple vouchers,” a devastated Ms Kane said.

“It’s very hard to explain to children why I am so upset.”

Ballarat Detective Senior Constable John Jess appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

Detective Senior Constable Jess said Ms Kane hoped to retrieve the items intact so she could enjoy the rest of her Christmas.

“The victim purchased these presents for her children …the theft is heartless,” Detective Senior Constable Jess said.

No other items were taken and the house was not broken into. Ms Kane cannot fathom how thieves stole the car without anyone noticing.

“The car was in the driveway, right next to our bedroom,” Ms Kane said.

“I didn’t hear anything. They must’ve rolled it out because we didn’t hear a thing.”

Despite a significant rise in theft in the last 12 months, the Kane family had not been targeted previously. They were vigilant and kept their vehicle locked at all times.

“I just hope they don’t burn it out. We work so hard and put away money for Christmas. The effort, the time. I just don’t understand,” Ms Kane said.

While the vehicle is insured, its contents are not. Ms Kane said it would be difficult to pay for replacement gifts so close to Christmas.

Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000.

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